Professional Development Resources for Customer Advocacy Marketers - Thoughts from Referential's Lillian Kann

beard-2365810_1920.jpg

Customer Advocacy is an exciting but often challenging component of the sales and marketing strategy. Nearly everyone understands the value of customer advocates, but often the difficulty lies in establishing core programs and then managing them effectively. With social media and the wealth of online information, customers are researching products and talking to advocates before engaging in a sales cycle, but how do advocacy practitioners stay ahead of this curve to ensure customer stories are positioned successfully? Hearing how other advocacy practitioners are staying current in the new world of advocacy marketing can be helpful; learning what’s working and what’s not from other professionals in the industry.

Since advocacy programs vary across a broad spectrum of maturity – some programs have extended teams of practitioners using all the latest tools, while other programs have one person wearing multiple hats – as an industry, we’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge about how to align marketing, sales, support and product teams to develop strategic customer stories and we’ve cultivated countless best practices for engaging customer champions and mitigating customer burnout. With larger teams there is greater opportunity for brainstorming and collaboration, but I believe all practitioners can gain value from connecting with their advocacy peers more frequently, and across company-silos. We have the potential to be one another’s best resources for tips on how to build and maintain buy in from leadership teams, tricks on how to ensure robust advocate pipelines with strong user adoption, tactics to streamline customer asset approval, and strategies to engage and build stronger customer communities.

While nothing can replace experience and strong customer-centric values, I see it becoming more and more beneficial for advocacy professionals to interact with advocacy-focused communities and exchange ideas with peers. Over the past ten years, the pool of advocacy resources has grown immensely with the emergence of advocacy publications, online professional groups on LinkedIn, professional certifications like those from the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals, vendor conferences like AdvoCamp and the Summit on Customer Engagement that focus on customer marketing and advocacy topics, and in some regions, live meetups with advocacy peers.

The Boston area is fortunate to have a New England-based group of customer advocacy professionals - CAMP Boston - that coordinates regular live meetups where we discuss our experience in our respective roles, ongoing projects, marketing tools and technologies, as well as helpful tips that are invaluable no matter where you are in your program journey. There also is a Bay Area-based group - BACMAC - you may be interested in checking out if you're located in Northern California. BACMAC hosts a series of in-person and online meetings throughout the year.

As customer advocacy professionals, it is our passion that motivates us – and over the past ten years I’ve seen this passion help evolve the reference manager role into the customer advocacy profession. Sharing program success and best practices and collaborating with peers will help to continue the evolution of our industry, and the professional development of those within it. Check out the many resources that are available today!